Law allows for fines of up to NZ$15,000 ($12,000) and Internet account suspensions for up to six months; Labour Party vows to repeal ‘within 90 days.’
Today is a sad day for Internet users in New Zealand as the country’s long-delayed ‘three-strikes’ law takes effect in that country.
New Zealand enacted ‘three-strikes’ legislation this past April after several years of ill-fated attempts. The law allows for fines of up to NZ$15,000 ($12,000) and Internet account suspensions for up to six months.
The law takes effect despite a UN report that concluded disconnecting Internet users, ‘regardless of the justification provided,’ is a violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights because it limits the type of media individuals are allowed to use to express themselves.
UN Special Rapporteur Frank La Rue said that he was ‘alarmed’ by ‘disproportionate’ Internet disconnection proposals, and that individuals should never have their Internet access terminated for any reason, including copyright infringement.
Following that report, the opposition Labour Party, which had originally voted in favor of the legislation, said it agreed with La Rue’s assessment that Internet disconnection violates international law, and called for a ‘complete review’ of New Zealand’s copyright laws.
It reiterated its opposition to Internet disconnection in a recent press release, vowing to introduce a Bill within 90 days to remove the ‘termination clauses’ from the Copyright Act; it promises to introduce a new Bill within 18 months to ‘update’ and ‘extend’ digital copyright laws that won’t disconnect copyright infringers.
‘Termination is unsustainable,’ said Clare Curran, Labour’s Communications and IT spokesperson. ‘Labour voted for the Bill in April because we stuck by a commitment to work with the Government to enable Internet service providers and rights holders to reach a compromise on copyright law.’
‘That compromise meant that termination of Internet access as an ultimate penalty for repeat copyright infringement remained in the Bill, but could not be enacted without the consent of the Minister, but it is clear that this won’t work long-term.’
She said the real debate is about shifting power, access to information, out-dated business models, and the immense potential of the Internet to change the world as we know it.
‘These solutions are, of course, bigger than simply tinkering with a single section of the Copyright Act,’ added. ‘That’s why Labour will review the whole Act with a view to encouraging new business models to emerge which will distribute digital content easily and affordably.
‘It’s a fundamental principle to ensure that the work of Kiwi creators is valued and that they can maintain control over their own works. The old business models — by which the distribution of creative works was controlled by big companies — have gone.
She’s right, and that’s what they whole fight has been about: prying loose old distribution models and democratizing them. For the first time artists can disseminate their works to the entire world on their own terms, and individuals can likewise access creative works on a scale that was for most of man’s existence unimaginable.
‘Citizens everywhere are hungry for information and creative material via the digital environment. It is absolutely essential we get the balance right,’ Curran said.